Monday, March 26, 2012

Improv classes (and what they mean to a character Designer)

So on a whim I decided to take an Improv class.  I thought it would be a new experience and help me grow as a character designer in my own craft.  It's 4 sessions and then you do a live performance.  18 started, 11 finished.  But here's what I really learned:

1.  "The Duality of man"
Most artists, including myself, have a few different aspects to their personality.  My introverted side which sits in my office all day freelancing alone, takes up a huge chunk of my head space.  Yes, I've worked with others but the craft itself after we've discussed something or gotten suggestions or feedback is all very much a  singular activity until the "next round."  You get to think about what you want, plan something and then execute and correct if necessary. 

On that flip side, the extrovert that MUST show up at an Improv routine is a polar opposite.  You must have showmanship and must MUST always act and react to another individual.  Like painting on a canvas but each of you gets one stroke at a time back and forth.  No cntrl Alt Z, no planning but in both cases to succeed at it you have to put it all out there.  People will support anyone who goes all out for their craft.

2.  "Believing in your self"
I now understand the narcissism I find in many actors and actresses. Not as an insult to them because I still love my friends, but up until now it was a mystery to me.  To get better at a painting, the painter practices, works on it, does the next one better but the product is always the painting.  It's that thing you put "on the wall" and hope someone reacts to it the way you intend.  Confidence but not over confidence is important to maintain always improving but happy with success you've already achieved.  A very hard balancing act.  At the end of the day, it's still about that one painting/drawing and not the artists overall trajectory.

Acting out, on stage and in front of an audience is sheer lunacy and very nerve racking.  Your canvas is your brain and your body.  It's literally the thing you hang on the wall and hope people like.  You are made very aware of how you move, how awkward you are and how much you need to bring to a stage.  So you are constantly thinking about "you".  Mannerisms, jokes, dances, stuttering.  It's all very much a singular focus on oneself.  My teacher made a very good observation about my lack of confidence.  I always thought I had enough but taking a harder look I did realize I was downplaying myself a bit too much.

 For someone getting into animation it might be the greatest thing to make yourself do.  Once you can do a live performance in front of an audience, you won't care about 3 other classmates or co workers in the room when you need to get that best squash and stretch punch.  Just getting on that stage made 11 people more confident that they just did it, regardless of if they were a hit or not.  A huge step for everyone in my class.

3.  "The Rush and the rest"
-Man that is a huge adrenaline rush and dump.  Nothing else is like Improv that I've experienced thus far.  When you are away from it you want to do it again and again.
-I crafted my ability to use timing in humor.  A big plus.
- I learned a ton about action and reaction and how crucial the set up is to the punchline.
-I created some new characters and got to see some great insight to some great ideas that just work. 
-I got better at talking in front of groups.
-I find it much easier to talk with people at the conventions.  Everything is coming a split second faster now.  Feels nice.
- we all surprised ourselves
-Made some amazing friends
- I know I am better at pitching stories and thinking on my toes and in this hollywood game, it helps out.



So in conclusion, it was an amazing 5 weeks.  My teacher bumped me up 2 levels and I start my next class tonight.  Out of the 11 performers including a teacher, actress, advertising exec, mother of 3, lawyer, and many others 9 of us are going back for more.  For anyone who wants to be an animator, a character designer, or someone waiting to get out of their comfort zone, this is for you.  I will be on the stage and I hope to see you soon. Thanks for all the support as always.
Not quitting my day job....yet.

Peace and cheers,
Brett "2D" Bean


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